The opening ceremony of the 44th International Thessaloniki Film Festival took place last night at the packed Olympion theatre with the attendance of the Minister of Culture, Evangelos Venizelos. The Director of the Festival, Michel Demopoulos, spoke about the twelve years since the Festival turned international. Mr. Demopoulos noted that although during the last decade there existed a misleading notion of a decline of cinema, the Thessaloniki Film Festival never shared this belief, but rather opposed it. “In 1992 we had a total of 7,500 visitors, last year that number reached 70,000 and this year we intend to surpass even that”, Mr. Demopoulos said.
He also mentioned the positive effects of the Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greek film production saying that, “Distributors, film critics and producers that are attending the Festival have the chance to meet with the domestic production”. “Every year we make an effort to determine the trends of film production. This year, most of the films from the international competition deal with women. The films convey the women’s position, their existential speculations, their joy and sorrows, their uniqueness and their ongoing struggle for happiness in an entrapping society”, he added.
Among others, Mr. Demopoulos also made extensive reference to the Festival’s comprehensive tributes to prominent filmmakers, to the soul stirring –as he called it- program of Asian films “Stars of the Steppe” and to the special section Balkan Survey which provides Thessaloniki the opportunity to emerge as a crossroad of Balkan creation. As for “New Horizons”, Mr. Demopoulos said that this year the section attempts to redefine its bearing with new, independent artists. In conclusion, Mr. Demopoulos said that filmmakers primarily need support from the audience and didn’t forget to mention the decisive contribution of the Ministry of Culture towards the independence and institution of the Thessaloniki Film Festival.
The institution’s most brilliant moment
The mayor of Thessaloniki, Vasilis Papageorgopoulos, mentioned that the Festival, which is identified with Thessaloniki, is traversing its most brilliant moment. “The Thessaloniki Film Festival’s course has been continuously upward and it has received international acclaim. I would like to congratulate the board of directors and all of those that contribute to the Festival for their hard work. Thessaloniki provides fertile ground for their efforts, and for cinemagoers, the Festival is transformed into 11 months of expectation and 10 gratifying days. Actually, year by year, the Festival receives more and more of the glamour it deserves”, Mr. Papageorgopoulos added.
Seven years as Minister of Culture
The Minister of Culture, Evangelos Venizelos, said that this year is the seventh that he attends the Thessaloniki Film Festival as Minister of Culture. “I deserve to be proud of the Festival’s course. In recent years it has become an organization. It has transformed into a large institution that, along with the Greek Film Center, supports cinema”. Mr. Venizelos said that he is happy to be able to compare the Thessaloniki Film Festival with other festivals. He said that it isn’t a small festival or one that tries to measure up to the large festivals like Berlin’s, Cannes’ or Venice’s.
On the contrary, it is aware of its stature as it provides opportunities to upcoming directors and follows trends without turning its back to films that massively attract audiences. He also said that this year is crucial for Greek film production and supported his statement by mentioning opinion polls that have shown the great expectation of Greek audiences for new Greek films and their support for Greek cinema. “This year we expect a significant increase in ticket sales for Greek films. Greek filmmakers must accentuate their talent in order to reach the audience”, Mr. Venizelos added.
The Minister of Culture thanked all of the cinemas for partaking in the Ministry’s initiative of providing a 20% discount on tickets Monday through Thursday to special groups of people. Noting the accomplishment of establishing the first Department of Cinema at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and receiving a round of applause, Mr. Venizelos said, “With the agreement of the Ministry of Education and the University Deanship, next year will the first of the department’s operation”. In conclusion, the Minister of Culture stated his unyielding optimism about the future of the Thessaloniki Film Festival and declared its opening. The opening ceremony concluded with the screening of the film “Zatoichi”.